A state regulatory board indicated it plans to reject a plan to build a Muslim-friendly surgery center in the southwest suburbs, the Elgin Courier-News is reporting.
But several board members said they sympathize with a problem they hadn't realized exists—the discomfort that followers of Islam, especially modesty-conscious women, feel about using existing hospitals, urgent care centers and surgery centers in the Chicago area.
And proponents say they have not given up on the project.
Naser Rustom, a Muslim Arab-American, had asked the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board to approve a "certificate of need" for a $5.5 million, 11,000-square-foot "ambulatory surgical treatment center" with five operating rooms in the former Plunkett's Furniture store building adjacent to Orland Square Shopping Center in Orland Park.
Meeting in Bolingbrook Tuesday, the board voted unanimously, with one member absent, that it "intends to reject" the application when it comes back to the board for a final decision in June or August.
Wearing a modesty scarf over her hair, Gihad Ali of the Arab-American Action Network told the board that after her mother was diagnosed with cancer, her mother was appalled that when she went to a hospital for treatments, male medical personnel and other patients could see her in various stages of undress.
She also had to miss many of her normal five-times-a-day prayers because the hospital had no facilities for the ceremonial washing needed, she said.
While the Bible was available in hospital rooms, Ali said, there was no prayer rug. "I should not have to leave my religion at the door in order to receive healthcare services."
Rustom said his Preferred Surgicenter would be "the first healthcare facility in Illinois designed to accommodate the special needs of Muslim-Americans" but would take Muslim and non-Muslim patients alike.
Robin Fina, who would have been manager of the center, said it would have had private post-surgery recovery rooms to safeguard patient modesty, would use more modest hospital gowns and would include washing basins and a prayer room.
She said the center also would try to connect with female surgeons and hire female staff members to treat female patients, avoiding the Muslim ban against men seeing naked women who are not their wives.
It also would try to hire staff members who speak Arabic and the languages spoken by recent immigrants from places like Iran and Pakistan.
Joseph Hylak-Reinholtz, the project's attorney, said two studies concluded that Muslim Americans have worse health than non-Muslims because of reluctance to go to healthcare facilities.
Board member Alan Greiman of Wilmette, who is a judge, asked whether surgeons would stop in mid-surgery when a time of prayer came. Hylak-Reinholtz said they would not.
Greiman also asked whether Islamic "Sharia law" would trump state and federal laws when the staff made decisions.
Hylak-Reinholtz said state and federal law would always prevail. For example, he said, male and female patients would have to use the same waiting room because having "separate but equal" waiting rooms probably would be illegal under American civil rights law.
In any case, the attorney said, different Islamic nations and sects interpret parts of Sharia law differently.
Several board members noted that according to an analysis by the board staff, the Orland Park area already has enough surgery providers to handle all business in that area. It said that would hurt existing business and be an unwise use of healthcare dollars. The staff also concluded that Rustom did not meet all necessary financial standards.
"You would be in a service area that doesn't really need your services," said board member James Burden, a physician from Glenview.
Board member Richard Sewell of Chicago said that with more Muslims than Jews in the Chicago area, market forces eventually will require existing facilities to accommodate Muslim needs or will induce a Muslim-friendly facility to open in some area where there are not so many existing facilities.
Hylak-Reinholtz said Wednesday that his client intends to prove the facility is needed when the issue comes back before the board.